WASHINGTON -- Al Franken briefed Democratic senators in the nation's Capitol on Tuesday and said he sees "a light at the end of the tunnel" in his effort to be seated in the U.S. Senate.
Franken, a Democrat, leads Republican Norm Coleman by 225 votes, a result that Coleman is challenging in the election trial, or "contest," now in its seventh week in St. Paul.
"I believe that we're going to win the election contest, and after that Senator Coleman can choose to do what he wants," Franken said, referring to Coleman by his former title. Coleman's term ended Jan. 3, and Minnesota's second Senate seat has remained vacant since then.
Franken, asked whether the Senate would try to seat him before Coleman's appeals are exhausted, said, "I don't know, but I don't think so."
Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan dismissed Franken's remark about a light at the end of the tunnel. "Al Franken doesn't know the difference between a light in the tunnel and the freight train that is coming right at him," Sheehan said. "The freight train is coming, and it's Senator Norm Coleman being reelected to the United States Senate."
Franken said he expects Coleman to appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court should he lose the election trial.
"If [the Supreme Court justices] rule in our favor, then I imagine I'll be certified and then it won't be very controversial that I'm seated," Franken said. "But, no, we are not attempting to be seated before that."
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a Senate Democratic leader, said "we're not even going to speculate on that."
But he added, "We are very optimistic."
Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Reid "wanted to update the Democratic caucus on the latest news in the Minnesota recount, and to ensure Mr. Franken is plugged in to what is going on in the Senate so he can hit the ground running."
Franken was in the caucus room for about 10 minutes. Two rounds of applause could be heard during that time.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who was at the meeting, said she believes the contest will not be over until it has been considered by the Minnesota Supreme Court, adding "there was no talk of the Senate intervening."
She said that Franken gave a detailed account of the contest and that "he predicted he would come out of this as the senator."
The senators, she said, have been tracking the race closely. "They're all following it on their Blackberries," she said.